Motherboards 101: How to Know if a Motherboard is Bad (And How to Fix It)
If you play your cards right, your motherboard can last through multiple CPU upgrades. A quality motherboard is important if you want to get the most out of your CPU, RAM, and SSD. Data transfer rates, heat dissipation, and expansion are key roles of the motherboard.
When something goes wrong, you may not know what it is right away. The motherboard is often the last component that gets diagnosed. If you’re already tech-savvy enough, you’ll start by going down the line.
Use this guide to learn how to problem-solve and determine if your motherboard is failing and what you can do.
As we mentioned in the introduction, you may not immediately know if something is wrong with the motherboard. If you’re getting random freezes and system reboots, there are many causes. Software/OS failures, corrupted drivers, bad RAM sticks, and hard drive errors all cause the same symptoms.
Failing to boot narrows down the number of possibilities. To boot, all you need is a stick of RAM and a working power supply. If you can get that far, then you can move onto other ways of testing your motherboard.
Those who just bought a brand new gaming motherboard, ask yourself what motherboard do you have before proceeding.
Depending on the MOBO brand, your ability to troubleshoot your system may take a few hours or possibly all day. Asus, Gigabyte, ASRock, and MSI motherboards lead the pack for reliability and easy of software navigation. You want a board that is easy to use and tweak, or you’ll find yourself going around in circles.
First thing’s first, check to see if your computer is on a sleep timer. It sounds silly, but a lot of assumptions are made when the computer turns itself off. There are a number of sleep mode issues that persist in Windows versions, including 10.
If that’s not the issue, try reverting back to a previous date when your computer was issue-free. If it has been too long for you to remember, you’ll need to consider restoring your PC. Do a full scan for viruses and malware if you don’t have any restore points you can return to.
Your final resort will mean a full system reset. Back up all your files on removable media and cloud storage. Thankfully, reinstalling programs isn’t as frustrating or lengthy as it was a decade ago.
Fresh Install Didn’t Work
If you’re following along with us, but still haven’t been able to fix your system crashes or hard reboots, stay strong. We’ve ruled out software as the culprit, which takes the longest to weed out. Now, we move onto hardware-related problems.
Skip below to the next section if you’re not seeing a boot screen at all. Or, look into getting your computer looked at by a computer technician.
First, you should double-check the connection on your power cable. Ideally, this is something you could check before going through all the software troubleshooting. For the sake of organization, we’re grouping it with all the other hardware checks.
If your power cable isn’t snug with your PSU or wall outlet, you can experience power fluctuations. This would cause frequent power downs, not necessarily followed by a reboot.
Peripherals and Drives
If you’re having trouble booting windows, new peripherals, like an external hard drive, DVD drive, and even printers could cause the block. Smart cards and thumb drives are often the culprits of a broken boot screen. Your motherboard may default to the new storage device as the main boot device.
If this is the case, disconnect all recently connected peripherals and try to boot. Did it boot to Windows? You have to change your boot order if you want to keep your USB drive in while powering on or rebooting.
All you need to do is navigate to your motherboard BIOS and change your HDD to the first slot.
Beeps and Damage
If you’re stuck without anything showing up on the screen when you press the power button, it’s a good chance it’s the MOBO. You should get some sequence of beeps to tell you what is wrong. No beeps = dead motherboard.
You’ll need to check your motherboard manual to find out what your sequence of beeps mean or leave it to a repair tech to figure out. What you can do, though, is check to make sure all components are seated correctly and eyeball for damage.
Brown spots near solder points are a sign of an untimely demise, as is the faint smell of burnt plastic. Sometimes you can catch the damage before it’s done, but the failing component has to be removed ASAP. If you just recently installed new hardware, it’s likely the cause of your problems 9/10 times.
While they can take a lot of abuse and neglect, whether it’s an Intel or AMD motherboard, they’ll fail if:
- Your case has awful cooling
- You never clean out the dust
- You’ve dropped the case before
- No surge protection
- Your own static electricity zaps it
When you’ve done all that you could or can’t troubleshoot the problem, call a pro. It’s a fool’s game to spend days trying to guess why your computer hates you.
Time to Call For Help
Wave the white flag, CFH, and stop before you consider buying a new computer. Only a professional computer repair shop with the proper tools can properly diagnose your motherboard. If you’re ever unsure about anything, you shouldn’t hesitate to bring it in for a second look.
It does turn out that you need a new motherboard, at least you can get it replaced while ruling out all other failures. Peace of mind is a priceless upgrade for anyone who spends a lot of time and money on their computer.
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